US viewers switch off Millionaire game show

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The Independent Online

Americans have stopped watching game shows since the 11 September tragedy, hitting the US revenues of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, according to Avesco.

David Nicholson, chief executive, suggested Americans don't want to watch people win $1m after seeing the terrorist outrage. "I have no idea why this should be. There is a change of viewing habits after 11 September," he said.

The group owns the worldwide television, merchandising and new media rights to the hit TV show, through its Complete Communications associate company. Avesco said Millionaire was still achieving top 10 ratings in the US up until 11 September, but since the viewing figures have declined "at least in part due to the change in audience sensitivities following the attacks".

Reporting interim figures yesterday, the company said it now expected total full-year television market revenues to fall short of expectations. The news sent Avesco shares down 29 per cent to 437.5p.

The first half of 2001 was also "difficult". Turnover slipped £1m to £32.6m, while underlying profit for the six months to 30 September more than halved to £2.5m. Post goodwill, pre-tax profit was just £6,000 – from £4.1m for the period last year.

Avesco said its Corporate Presentation Services division, which provides exhibitions and conferences, had been hardest hit as "attendees have been reluctant to embark on long distance air travel". At the Complete Communications unit, turnover from the UK production of Millionaire was flat in the first half. Merchandising revenues were also down.

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